Boggled

You Europeans will be tolerantly amused by this, but …

I live in an apartment in Schenectady, New York. (It’s kinda near the center of the state, if you’re not familiar with newyorkography.) It’s an older building. In fact, the area I live in is the oldest part of the town — there’s a building a few blocks away that dates from the late 1600s.

My building dates from the 1800s. It’s a creaky old thing, but comfortable. I’d like to show you a series of pictures from when I went down to the basement today to do laundry.

First, here’s the laundry room:

Next, I’m going to zoom in on part of it.

Now I’ll zoom in a bit farther.

And still farther.

Those 6 little books in the center of the pic are all from the 1800s.

The little fat one on the left is a Latin dictionary and grammar, and it’s more than 180 years old — only about 50 years younger than the entire country.

Apparently books printed back then — some of them, anyway — were made pocket-sized by printing them with extremely small type. I swear this one is printed throughout with 6 point type. You’d have to have very good eyes back then, or probably forgo an advanced education.

Anyway, these books are just sitting around in the laundry room of this nothing-special apartment building.

That just … amazes me.

I had something of the same experience when I hitchhiked through New Orleans many years ago. A college student gave me a ride, and we stopped by his apartment on the way across town. The place was full of these massive, meticulously hand-carved antiques. I remarked on it, on how amazing it was that the owner would just leave such furniture — beautiful bedsteads, lavish hardwood tables, beautiful kings-ransom chests-of-drawers — to the ministrations of college students, and he said “Oh, no, all the buildings around here are just full of this old stuff.”

So these books that might have been held by your grandfather’s grandfather, or people alive during the American Revolution — including a book printed during the presidency of Andrew Jackson! (the 7th president) — are apparently so casually common here that they’re stored in apartment building laundry rooms.

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